Wednesday, 13 October 2021

Image borrowed from https://yborcityonline.com/explore/history-of-the-chicken-in-ybor/

CHICKENS

While in Tampa, Florida last week I discovered that I was actually staying in a hotel in Ybor City, a historical neighborhood of Tampa. This special area of Tampa was home to immigrants from Spain, Cuba, Germany and Italy in the 1880s. Their work? They rolled cigars! This area was a world capital for cigar manufacturing until the 1930s. In this neighborhood there are still some homes that the cigar industry provided for employees. They are small homes with small backyards. It is in the backyard that the immigrants raised chickens for eggs and meat.

Wandering less than a city block from the hotel, I came across a park where, of all things, chickens of all species roam freely. It is said that these chickens are descendants of the breeds raised by immigrants over a hundred years ago. The chickens are free to roam wherever they like and roam they do. Some seem to have their own niche in the park while others move more freely, crossing streets and pecking around in parking lots. These birds are protected by law and, as I said, Ybor City has been their territory for over a hundred years.

There are a couple of signs that remind citizens and visitors alike that the birds are protected and that it is illegal to feed them. Another word I heard about the chickens indicates that, like them or not, this has been their neighborhood longer than you have been alive.

Live chickens have never been a part of my life. For me, they came in plastic bags at the grocery store and made for delicious meals. My mother made an excellent chicken dinner complete with mashed potatoes and gravy. As I recall, my mother dipped the chicken pieces in flour, salt and pepper and baked them. The result was always delicious. I don’t think I’ve had better in the last 50 years!

Growing up, the only thing I knew about chickens is that my father suffered a phobia of them. That phobia was never really talked about, but it seems that when my dad was very young, a chicken fluttered about him and jumped, landing on his head. That would scare anyone I would think. My dad was safe from live chickens in our neighborhood. In fact, I don’t remember seeing a live chicken until something like 1974. I was a Christmas guest of a family who lived in Chantilly, just north of Paris. I was alone at Christmas until my classmate invited me to join her family. Chantilly is not exactly rural, but it had some country roads. Walking along these roads one day, a chicken jumped onto the road. I also jumped because it startled me. I remember distinctly that I was amazed at how big a chicken could be!

So, my little sojourn in Ybor City brought back any memory of chickens I could recall. Later, in Mesa, Arizona I remember hearing roosters and seeing a hen walking down a sidewalk. This was an area of Mesa where apparently people kept chickens most probably for eggs. This was certainly the case when I was visiting a family in Phoenix. There was an enormous backyard that stretched out from a patio. Strangely and coincidentally enough, the family was having a player piano repaired when I visited. As I listened to the piano, it seemed that the sound was quite like what cackling chickens would sound like. I pointed this peculiar sound out to the mother of the family and she said that her chickens often ‘cluck’ when they hear the piano. She then pointed out several hutches way out in her backyard. I was relieved to know that the piano actually sounded like a piano and, at the same time, I was amused by the clucking choir.

If you ever visit Ybor City, I hope you encounter the famous resident chickens. Remember that they are respected citizens with a long lineage in the neighborhood. Remember too, not to feed them. There is a police academy nearby and I presume that trainees are tutored in chicken protection and in doing so, they also render service.

Link to Ybor Chickens Society: https://www.yborchickens.org/about

Published by Thomas

Retired from active priestly ministry in the Catholic Church; former Benedictine monk; francophile; Holocaust researcher; Delta One Million Miler; Ex-Patriated American to the Republic of Panama

One thought on “Wednesday, 13 October 2021

  1. I adore chickens. I have a friend in Malibu who raised chickens….for their eggs and not for food. However, the city had a noise ordinance so she had to get rid of the males as soon as they became known to her because they all look alike when chicks…so males would go to her neighbor, Bob Dylan. She said no one had the nerve to tell Bob Dylan his chickens were noisy, and Bob apparently was a lover of all things foul. Pardon the pun. Thanks for your lovely imagery of the times in your life, present, past and even folklore. I enjoy reading what rattles around in your mind, and you have a very smooth way of conveying your musings.

    Like

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